Of the 20 Heisman winners in this century, 17 have been quarterbacks; curiously, the other three were Alabama’s only three recipients — Mark Ingram (running back) in 2009, Derrick Henry (running back) in 2015, and Devonta Smith (wide receiver) this past year.
Given this strong trend of awarding the trophy to the nation’s best quarterback, it’s not surprising that the only Ohio State player to win the Heisman since Eddie George in 1995 was quarterback Troy Smith, who took the honor in 2006. Smith remains only Ohio State’s second signal-caller to win the prize, following Les Horvath in 1944.
In the Bucks’ 2004, 8-4 campaign, Smith shared quarterbacking duties with Justin Zwick and then moved into the starting role for the 2005 and 2006 seasons, both memorable seasons. That 2005 team went 10-2, losing by a touchdown to Penn State and by three to the Vince Young-led, eventual national champion Texas Longhorns. Smith passed for 2,282 yards and ran for another 611 for Jim Tressel’s team that year. While we may think of Tressel as a run-first coach, both of these teams — 2005 and 2006 — collected more passing yards than rushing yards.
In his Heisman year of ‘06, Troy Smith completed 65% of his passes for 2,542 yards and 30 touchdowns. Serious passing numbers that, at the end of the season, ranked him fourth all-time in Ohio State passing yards in a season, behind Joe Germaine’s 3,330 in 1998, Bobby Hoying’s 3,269 in 1995, and Art Schlichter’s 2,551 in 1981. Of course, once Urban Meyer and Ryan Day arrived on the scene, Smith’s numbers were eclipsed three times by J.T. Barrett and once each by Dwayne Haskins and Justin Fields.
Nevertheless, Smith’s 2006 performance still ranks ninth all-time in Buckeye history, and his completion percentage ranks behind only Fields’ two seasons (70% in 2020, 67% in 2019) and Haskins’ 70% in 2018.
And what a year 2006 was! If you’ll recall, the Buckeyes were ranked first in the nation all season long. And when Ted Ginn, Jr. ran the opening kickoff back for a 93-yard touchdown against Florida in the championship game, it sure looked like a national title for the Buckeyes. But then Ginn was hurt on the celebration, the offensive line couldn’t keep rushers off of Smith, and Ohio State linebackers couldn’t cover Percy Harvin over the middle on short crossing routes. Meyer’s Gators won 41-14.
But Troy Smith had his Heisman in hand, and that one game didn’t tarnish his season — or that of the team. The offense was awesome. In addition to Ginn, wide receivers Anthony Gonzalez, Brian Robiskie, Brian Hartline and tight end Jake Ballard made up the receiving corps, while ntonio Pittman and a young Beanie Wells were the running backs. On defense, James Laurinaitis, Vernon Gholtson, and Malcolm Jenkins were the headliners.
While Smith’s college career was outstanding and while he’ll be remembered as one of the great Ohio State quarterbacks, his pro career never took off. Drafted in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL draft by the Ravens, Smith played in only 20 NFL games for Baltimore and, later, San Francisco. His record as a pro starter was 4-4.
It has been fifteen years since Troy Smith won the Heisman Trophy, and somewhat surprisingly, he remains the most recent Buckeye to walk away with the most prestigious prize in college football. With the talent-packed rosters that we’ve come to expect from teams coached by Meyer and Day, we shouldn’t be surprised if another award winner comes along sooner than we expect. The only question is, “Who’s next?”